Why Ethan Hawke Encourages Us to ‘Play the Fool’

Orianna Nienan
Aug 12, 2020 · 3 min read
Photo by Rachel on Unsplash

I saw a TED video with Ethan Hawke that continues to impress upon me the importance of being authentic and living the life we really want to live. Hawke does not call us to the type of authenticity we proudly display to the world, he calls us to the raw, risky, perhaps uncomfortable authenticity that can make you feel foolish if you are concerned about how the world is going to receive you. His point is that humans have a basic need to express our creativity, though we often hold back. From my perspective, there are some typical reasons why we do not follow our dreams: 1) we think we cannot make money doing what we love; 2) we are afraid of failing; 3) we are afraid others will ridicule us and we will look foolish; 4) we follow what our mind tells us what we ‘should’ do rather than following our heart and doing what we love, and; 5) we are afraid of the unknown.

Regardless of whatever fears and blockages we have to being fully ourselves, it is vital to take responsibility for the decisions in our lives, including how we spend our time. Hawke says, “We know this, the time of our life is so short, and how we spend it — are we spending it doing what is important to us? Most of us not.” Hawke makes a few key points to provide some encouragement for change:

  • It’s not up to us whether we are any good at whatever we create
  • The world is a very unreliable critic
  • When big things are going on in our lives, art is not a luxury it is sustenance
  • Creativity is not a “nice to have” in life, it is vital — it is how we heal each other

I agree with all of it, with focus on the last point. I find Trevor Hall’s music deeply healing. I expect that most people can find a writer, a musician, a painter, or some form of art that feels like a healing balm to the soul. Now think about all the talented people everywhere, yourself included, that have dormant gifts that could be expressed in the world but may not ever have the chance. Think of your five favorite pieces of art and consider what your life would be like if they had never been created. Sucks, right? Well, it is entirely possible that something equally creative, yet unexpressed, lives within you — an expression that could change people’s lives if only you would allow yourself to be creative.

Hawke provides a simple formula: follow your love, know yourself, express yourself. “What do you love? And if you get close to what you love, who you are is revealed to you, and it expands…There is no path, there’s no path ’til you walk it. And you have to be willing to play the fool. Don’t read the book you should read, read the book you want to read.” And don’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks.

Life is too short. You are the creator of your experience and a deeply creative human being. I think it is so important to explore and share our gifts, even if it is a little uncomfortable and we feel like a fool. I really appreciated how this video reminded me to take responsibility for everything I am creating — and everything I am not.

Here is a link Hawke’s TED video in case you would like to check it out: https://www.ted.com/talks/ethan_hawke_give_yourself_permission_to_be_creative?language=en.


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